Grip strength is one of the most overlooked aspects of training, yet it can be one of your most important assets in your quest to get stronger.
The stronger your grip, the better you will perform at all of the big lifts like the bench press and deadlift.
This all stems from something called “radiant tension”. For every lift, you should be gripping the sh*t out of the bar. When you do this, the tension will travel from your hands, into your forearms, through your upper arms and into your shoulders and so on. This is radiant tension. Any experienced lifter knows that to get stronger and press more weight, you have to be able to create not only radiant tension, but also total body tension. Grip strength is your starting point.
If you want to test this concept, do a light set of bench presses with a slack or just loose grip. You will notice that your control over the bar isn’t that great and you aren’t recruiting a ton of muscle to do the lift. Then do a set with as much radiant tension as you can muster by really death clutching the bar, and I guarantee you will be able to feel a difference in your muscle recruitment, efficiency, and force production.
So, what if your grip sucks? How the hell do you fix it? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here are 7 ways to develop crushing grip strength:
#1: Death Grip the Bar
I already mentioned this is the key to creating radiant tension. You should be doing this on every single rep of every single set. If you want to get good at something, you have to practice. Frequently grabbing the bar as hard as possible will improve your grip strength over time.
#2: Use a Thicker Bar
Thick bar training is not only what I attribute my grip strength to, but also my forearm development. In fact, I haven’t used a standard size barbell in years. Using a thick bar will challenge your grip and force you to get stronger.
If you don’t have thick bars at your gym, pony up $40 and invest in a pair of Fat Gripz. This is what I use and they are ALWAYS in my gym bag. You can purchase them on the right hand side of this page.
#3: Do Not Lift With a Bar At All
If you missed my post on imperfection training, check it out here.
Training with odd objects can be one of the best things you can do to help develop your grip strength. Why? Because odd-objects typically have no grip!
Sandbags and stones for example have nowhere for you to naturally put your hand around. You simply have to grip it wherever you can get your hands placed in order to move the weight, and your hand position will rarely be in the same place twice. This is a sure-fire way to force your body to use radiant tension, whether or not you even realize it.
This will also take your fingers out of some of the lifts, forcing you to be more proficient with your entire hands and upper body muscles to help maintain a hold on whatever you are lifting. This brings me to the next technique for maximizing your gripping power…
#4: Use False Grip
A false grip is simply switching up how you grip things, taking the emphasis off of your fingers, and gripping anything you might be holding deeper into your hands.
For those of you trying to learn muscle ups, using a false grip is crucial. But this also applies to your various strength training exercises as well. Using this kind of grip gives you more surface area on the things you are gripping, naturally giving you more power and ability to sustain gripping power.
Watch this video. Travis Bagent gives a great breakdown on the false grip and how that has helped him in his arm wrestling career.
#5: Ditch the Straps
For the longest time I didn’t use straps. I viewed them as cheating. However, my outlook on that has since changed and I think there is a time and place for them.
If you want to emphasize a muscle group, but don’t want your reps to suffer and fail prematurely because of your grip, it makes sense to use straps. But they are a slippery slope. I started using them too frequently during a training cycle, and then when I started training without them again, I immediately noticed my grip had weakened.
Use them strategically but not too frequently.
If you are picking up heavy weight off the floor repeatedly, you will develop serious gripping power. Deadlifting is awesome for this because you inherently squeeze the hell out of the bar anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone deadlift with a slack grip.
So, not only will you be moving serious weight with a strong grip, you will be utilizing radiant tension that will carry over into your other lifts.
#7: Farmers Carries
Anybody that knows me knows that I have a special place in my heart for farmers carries. In fact, I think they are one of the top 5 exercises of all time.
Picking up heavy sh*t and walking is the ultimate grip test. You can also carry light to moderate weight over longer distances to develop your “grip endurance” that will help you maintain a strong grip over the course of long training sessions.
So get a grip Primal Nation. Without it, I can promise you that your performance is suffering.